Feeds

IWF pulls Wikipedia from child porn blacklist

Virgin Killer ban reversed

The essential guide to IT transformation

The Internet Watch Foundation has removed Wikipedia from its child porn blacklist, despite its contention that the free online encyclopedia includes an image "potentially in breach" of the UK Protection of Children Act.

On Friday, under instructions from the IWF, several major UK ISPs began censoring a Wikipedia article dedicated to Virgin Killer, a 1976 record album from German heavy metal band The Scorpions. The album's original cover includes the image of a naked prepubescent girl whose genitals are covered only by what appears to be a cracked camera lens.

After the release of Virgin Killer, the controversial album cover was replaced by another in the US and the UK and was banned in other countries.

The IWF received a complaint about the image earlier this month, and after deciding it may violate the law, the British net censor added Wikipedia to a blacklist designed to protect the customers of ISPs and other companies "from inadvertent exposure to a potentially illegal indecent image of a child."

In order to block the image, six ISPs - Virgin Media, Be Unlimited/O2/Telefonica, EasyNet/UK Online, PlusNet, Demon, and Opal - began routing all Wikipedia traffic through a small number of transparent proxy servers. In some cases, the ISPs also blocked the entire Wikipedia article - not just the image.

What's more, the blacklists overturned Wikipedia system from accepting edits from the world at large. Because the ISPs were funneling traffic through proxies, large numbers of would-be UK editors appeared to be coming from the same IP range. This meant that Wikipedia administrators had no choice but to ban editing from most of the UK as part of its ongoing efforts to prevent encyclopedia "vandalism."

Editors with registered accounts were not affected.

But today, after complaints from across the web, the IWF backtracked on its decision with a statement posted to its web site. "The IWF board has today considered [its previous] findings and the contextual issues involved in this specific case, and – in the light of the length of time the image has existed and its wide availability – the decision has been taken to remove this web page from our list," the statement read.

The Virgin Killer image has turned up on sites across the web, including Amazon.com.

"IWF’s overriding objective is to minimise the availability of indecent images of children on the internet, however, on this occasion our efforts have had the opposite effect," the statement continued. "We regret the unintended consequences for Wikipedia and its users."

The Wikimedia Foundation - the not-for-profit that oversees Wikipedia - is pleased. "We are grateful to the IWF for making this swift decision, and to thousands of internet users from around the world for their outpouring of support," said Sue Gardner, executive director of the foundation. "Millions of Britons now have access to all of Wikipedia, and volunteers can resume their important editing work.

"The Wikimedia Foundation greatly admires the work of our volunteers - they care deeply about Wikipedia and are the first responders in dealing with potentially illegal content on Wikipedia."

But you have to wonder why Wikipedia included the image in the first place. One longtime administrator expresses mixed feelings. "I don't like the graphic and wish there was a way around it," this admin told The Reg. "But the reflex urge to shout 'Wikipedia is not censored' and the legitimate controversy about the image...means that Wikipedia should cover it, and the image in question is fair-use."

We never thought we'd say such thing, but as the controversy over Wikipedia's IWF ban bubbled to a boil, the voice of reason came from co-founder Jimmy "Jimbo" Wales. "I would recommend to the community that we go back and take a hard look at whether we ought to be keeping this based on our own principles, if it is in fact likely to be in violation of the law in the UK and (especially) US," he wrote.

"As a community, we are already quite firm: we do not and will not accept images of child pornography. So then the question becomes: does this image fit the definition under (especially) US law, or the law of any particularly relevant countries (UK). That is a question of judgment of fact that I do not think has been looked at sufficiently." ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
Clampdown on clickbait ... and El Reg is OK with this
Banking apps: Handy, can grab all your money... and RIDDLED with coding flaws
Yep, that one place you'd hoped you wouldn't find 'em
No, thank you. I will not code for the Caliphate
Some assignments, even the Bongster decline must
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Video of US journalist 'beheading' pulled from social media
Yanked footage featured British-accented attacker and US journo James Foley
Primetime precrime? Minority Report TV series 'being developed'
I have to know. I have to find out what happened to my life
Broadband slow and expensive? Blame Telstra says CloudFlare
Won't peer, will gouge for Internet transit
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?